Within the series “The greatest sculptors of the 20th century”, after a brilliant exhibition of Miró, and Rodin, the Art Pavilion will present a great virtuoso sculpture - Alberto Giacometti (1901 – 1966) in the year 2016. Visitors to the Art Pavilion will have the unique opportunity to see Giacometti's works borrowed from the French Foundation Maeght - twenty drawings, just as many lithographs and sculptures. The sculptures, known as the Giacometti's “thin people”, by which he is globally known for, characterized by a rough, almost rusty surface, and their elongated torsos, heads, arms and legs, are reduced to the strictest representations, and thus virtually brought to the point of fragility. At first glance, the “thin people” bring out a powerful metaphor - it can be seen that the sculptor used the depiction of human existence without joy and meaning. The latter is the result of his friendship with the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and Giacometti's sculptures relationship with Sartre's existentialist philosophy topics. Although Giacometti claimed not to have taken account of the philosophical implications of his works, today more than ever they correspond to the modernity in which people struggle for existence - often for their lives. That is why the exhibition is designed in accordance to the recent experiences of Croatia and Europe, hence the title of the exhibition “Portraits of the present”, which will present sculptures “Women of Venice” - a cycle of nine monumental sculptures which brought fame to the artist in 1956 at the Biennale of Contemporary Art in Venice, and the sculpture “Walking man” - an emblematic masterpiece that still today holds the first place in the ranking of most expensive sculptures - it was sold at Sotheby's auction in London for € 104 million a few years ago!
The project is specifically designed for the Croatian public, and it confirms the importance of Zagreb as a European cultural center. Authorship of the exhibition and a selection of works is signed by Jasminka Poklečki Stošić.
Extracted from the catalogue’s text of the author of the exhibition, Jasminka Poklečki
“…The start of the World War II overtook Alberto Giacometti in Paris where, a bit earlier, he had met Jean Paul Sartre, the philosopher. Thanks to this encounter, many of the art critics of the time were inclined to link Giacometti’s idiom “on the boundary of human existence, without joy or meaning” with Sartre’s existentialist philosophy. This was only to be expected since Giacometti and Sartre were close friends, spent hours talking and Sartre was a great Giacometti promoter. But Giacometti himself many times said that when he was creating the works he paid no particular attention to their philosophical implications; rather, his post-war works were an attempt at rendering the physical and emotional realities that he saw, and how he saw them, in the post-war period.
Indeed, these post-war works, from the so-called mature style (from 1946 on) have all the features of the war. These are sculptures from the thin people cycle (which started in Geneva in 1941 when he left Paris) but the dimensions are far, far greater than those that came into being earlier. Indeed, these post-war works, from the so-called mature style (from 1946 on) have all the features of the war. These are sculptures from the thin people cycle (which started in Geneva in 1941 when he left Paris) but the dimensions are far, far greater than those that came into being earlier.
External events, exogenous threats and circumstances, in combination with his own personal inner unease led this sensitive and intelligent artist to the creation of sculptures that were a mirror of the world of that day. A world that had gone through massacres and A-bombs, that had come out of the camps, emerged from the ruins of ravaged and spectral cities, hungry and painfully grieving, with open, quick wounds.
Although Giacometti now, in neutral Switzerland, as in the time of World War I, was far from active events of the war, the burden of the events of the time that he witnessed indirectly must without doubt have hit the artist Giacometti powerfully, and it was a burden he could not avoid, for it was impossible to remain immune to the echoes of the battlefield that made their way to Switzerland. And if at first in the thin people series he made sculptures that did not have direct connotations of war and the casualties of war, in 1946 when he returned to Paris, everything was different. He was now at the centre of events, and saw the consequences of the war, what had happened in it. And so in the mature style he did sculptures that were identical to the world that had created the war. These are sculptures with the same wounds and scars that the war had inflicted on cities and people. The same grief, sorrow and isolation that were engraved on the hearts of the survivors of the war were impressed on them. His mature style sculptures of men and women, of the post-war period, are shot through with a powerful feeling of the complexity of life and the question of whether there was aught but despair.
These are the sculptures Women of Venice (1956) and Walking Man (1960) (part of a series of the same name that consisted of numerous drawings and paintings, but best known and most widely acknowledged in the sculptures).
Women of Venice with great justice is counted among his best sculptures of women, and in general among his best works. The cycle consists of nine bronze figures created as states of one and the same figure, modelled in clay, and cast in plaster by Diego, Alberto’s brother. The hands hanging down by the sides emphasise the corporeality of the figures and recall Giacometti’s early experiences with figures of women in the foetal position. The tension in this works is created in the disproportion of the heavy, long pedestals in the shape of a wedge and the small heads. They seem as if someone had beaten them up, as if evil had overcome them. Pieces of flesh hang from their bodies. They seem as if about to disintegrate. Are they perhaps living corpses? We instinctually ask who these women are. Are they wives, mothers, lovers, prostitutes, survivors of the devastation of WWII, surviving by the play of fate, the decision of destiny? Are they the skeleton-thin women who came out of Dachau, Auschwitz, Treblinka and other camps?
Walking Man certainly belongs among the classic and most emblematic sculptures of the 20th century. According to many critics, it symbolises the very nature of that century, marked by the destruction and devastation of its wars. This work of Giacometti’s expresses all the problems of existence, the complexity and uniqueness of life, the alienation and infinite loneliness of mankind. Man whom we see, see striding forwards, legs wide apart. In his pacing he seems very energetic, determined to reach his goal. He is big. Enormous, in fact. Who is he? A portrait of holocaust survivors, captives who survived the most terrible tortures, military and civilian survivors of woundings and amputations? A portrait of a father who in the whirlwind of war was left with neither children nor wife? Or is it simply a collective portrait of man who had survived and overcome the evil of the 20th century. Man who had managed to arise out of the ashes, stand up straight and set off hopefully toward a new fate, a new age. Our age.
The question is whether our age, the age of today, can be recognised in these Giacometti sculptures created sixty years back. Is the suffering of man of today to be seen in them, as that of the man of the time was? Does it mean that Alberto Giacometti bequeathed a palpable torment in the sculptures Women of Venice and Walking Man to future generations?”